Those who knew Violet Kakai say she was a lovely woman and a loving mother. The hospital where she worked as an auxiliary nurse for a decade said she was kind and dedicated to her job.
In retrospect, this wasn’t surprising. As it turns out, Violet was also an abused woman, and the worse things became at home, the more she threw herself into her work at the hospital. She took on extra assignments, worked longer hours, gladly accepted night shifts – all to stay away from an abusive domestic situation.
Those in the know say she sometimes stole back at home in the dead of the night to sneak food to her children, or to just watch them sleep and cuddle them in the few moments it was safe for a mother to hug and show love to her children.
On the first night of August, her luck ran out. Police say her husband, a schoolteacher, grabbed a machete and hacked her to death. In this orgy of bloodletting, the machete struck one of their children, injuring them seriously. Violet died a violent death.
I did not know Violet, but I know many Violets. They are all around us, quietly shouting inaudibly for help to people who don’t understand the language of oppression, or don’t care. For many years, the neighbours knew something was amiss in Violet’s home.
Maybe they heard the screams; maybe they saw the black eyes. Even the police, it is said, had been informed that a physically abusive situation was going on in the household, but these are not priority cases.
She was probably told to be strong, to carry her cross of suffering with the stoic and stiff upper lip of an African woman. But why does this have to be the norm?
A simple Google search of “man hacks wife to death in Uganda” brings up a chronicle of crime that would make even coroners cringe.
Take Teddy Nakaweesa, 50, of Bugiri. When her husband, Patrick Bakaleka, 60, was done with bludgeoning her to death, he walked to the local shop, bought some cigarettes and smoked one calmly while her blood slowly caked on his hands and clothes.
Betty Tibenda thought that running back to her father’s home in Kamuli would save her from her abusive husband, but he followed her there and gutted her like a fish.
For Juliet Khainza, aged only 25, it might have been her displeasure at her husband taking another wife that upset her enough for her to turn her back to him when he returned to his bed. She, too, paid with her life at the hands of a man she considered her carer and protector.
There are many more, some unreported, others only enough to make the news on local radio stations. Many more go unnoticed because they are “only beatings” or other forms of physical abuse that are enough to hurt and harm, maybe even to the point of hospital admission, but not enough to kill.
Relationships are complicated and complex things. Two (sometimes more) adults bringing the sum total of their childhood traumas and experiences onto a 6x6 bed or even a more expansive relationship can throw up all sorts of annoying and frustrating experiences.
But nothing can justify physical abuse, let alone man hacking his wife to death in front of their children. Of course, this and other forms of abuse, are not one-way, but most of the physical variety, unfortunately, is often but not always of the man-on-woman variety.
Forget the social pressure. If it isn’t working, if it isn’t what it says on the tin, if you discovered that her lovely hair hid a bald head, if you now realise that his dazzling smile comes from dentures he keeps next to his bed, or chews the cud in his sleep, or if life has simply moved on and you don’t feel the way you did back in the day, move out and move on.
If it means ending back in a bed-sitter in Mpererwe walking through the ruins of what you once thought was, so be it; it is better to be alone and happy than to kill someone’s daughter, or spend the rest of your life in a crowded cell in Luzira being someone’s wife.
Mr Kalinaki is a journalist and poor man’s freedom fighter.